Last week I spent a few hours every day with a total stranger. More accurately, he was a total stranger to begin with but by the end of our week of transacting business, we got to know each other a little better. In between business, we shared a few personal things, mainly about our respective families. He has one child, a daughter, whom he dotes on and overprotects (which he freely acknowledged). We laughed and shared a few sweet daughter stories. Knowing that I work in Africa he wistfully said he would love to go there and I of course encouraged him to make a plan. A sadness came into his voice as he said, “I would love to travel, but my wife is afraid of flying.” Observing this momentary sadness, I saw reflected in his eyes a glimpse of the burden we all carry that others can’t see.
Every one of us carries a burden placed there by the actions of somebody else. We hurt because of something said or done by a trusted friend, a parent, a spouse, or even a child. We carry this burden, carefully tucked away from view but heavy enough to make us walk with a limp. Those around us see our flawed walk but they don’t necessarily see or know the burden that caused it.
Like everybody else, I carry my fair share of burdens. But here is what I have discovered about burdens:
- They can be made lighter. Finding someone to help you carry it can make all the difference. A dear friend, whose teenage son was an alcoholic, found much comfort in joining a support group of people who also had loved ones who were alcoholics.
- They can be rearranged. Sometimes balancing the load makes it more manageable to carry. Another friend finally accepted that she could not care for her aging mother, who suffered from dementia, on her own. She allowed a caregiver to come in three days a week to help her and give her much needed time to find the balance in her life again.
- They can be laid down. The deep relief I felt when laying down a heavy burden I carried from childhood was life altering. I forgave.
- They can be given away. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
When we observe another walking with a limp, may we tread softly, may we whisper a prayer of compassion, my we gently ease beside them and help lift the load. May we do to others as we would have them do to us.